It was a long and tiring journey to Lahti, Finland for Alex Harvey. After suffering cramps in the Olympic 50 k, excessive travel, a lack of training gear, and general exhaustion, the Quebec native bounced back for a top ten finish in Saturday’s World Cup 1.5 k freestyle sprint, placing seventh.
“I was a bit tired,” said the 25-year-old in a phone interview after his finish. “My quads were just sore from cramping in the 50 k and rough travel days and running a bunch. It’s just a bad combo. I was pretty confident with my shape, but I didn’t really know [what would happen]. I’m happy to be back in the top ten.”
After wrapping up Olympic racing in Russia less than a week ago, Harvey and the rest of the Canadian squad embarked on their journey to Finland, which ended up being “super long.” Their bags were checked all the way through to Helsinki, and when they were forced to spend the night in Frankfurt they were left without their essential gear. Arriving in Lahti late on Wednesday, they only had time to go for a quick run.
“I’ve done a lot of running since the 50 k and my legs are pretty sore from running that much,” said Harvey.
But the Canadian didn’t let the exhaustion damper his desire to succeed. Heading into Saturday’s race, Harvey said he was “hungry” for a top finish.
Harvey, who finished 14th in the qualification round skied smoothly through the quarterfinals, finishing second behind Russia’s Alexei Petukhov for an automatic advancement to the semifinals.
In the semifinals he looked just as strong headed into the finish as part of a three-way battle for second with Swedish teammates Teodor Peterson and Emil Jönsson. That was when misfortune got the best of the Canadian.
Peterson, who was skiing behind Jönsson, stepped on his teammates pole. With a broken pole and the prospects of advancing slim-to-none, Jönsson did what any teammate would have done: moved out of the way for Peterson. Unfortunately for Harvey, this meant that Swede headed in his direction, almost causing a hard collision.
“I thought for sure I was going to crash,” said Harvey. “I went out of balance and that’s how I missed the way to the final. I was coming with a lot of speed into that final corner, but even after that stumble I was able to reaccelerate and hold of [Josef] Wenzl who was coming up.” Finishing third in his heat, his time wasn’t fast enough to earn him a position as a lucky-loser in the final.
No one will know whether or not Harvey would have advanced without the hindrance, but Harvey had no ill feelings toward the Swede who prevented him from finding out.
“I think for Jönsson it was the right thing to do. He was out of the race with a broken pole and his teammate was right behind him. You can’t stay there and let your teammate get blocked so you’ve got to go out, but I’m the one who got skied on,” said Harvey.
Overall, Harvey was “super happy” to see that he could perform well even while fighting fatigue, adding with a laugh that “when you are on the top ten in the World Cup you get paid, and anytime you get paid to do cross country ski racing it can’t be a bad day.”
Two other North Americans qualified for the finals with the U.S. Ski Team duo of Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton finishing 23rd and 29th.
Hamilton, who was dealing with a chest cold, wasn’t sure he would enter today’s race but woke up Saturday morning deciding to give the sprint a shot.
“Maybe not the smartest call, but I’m feeling somewhat okay now and just looking forward to getting totally healthy before Drammen,” wrote Hamilton after ending his day in 20th position. “I knew after my qualifier that I had very few matches to burn for the quarter, so I just tried to stay relaxed and conserve energy, especially after I got tangled with another racer right out of the start lanes. I fought hard knowing that places for points count right now as World Cup Finals gets closer.”
Newell, who is also recovering from illness, had some trouble in his quarterfinal after attempting to avoid a collision with Russian Nikita Kriukov at the start he bumped into a Norwegian. Loosing both a pole and a ski in the process, Newell was taken out of contention from the very beginning. With the setback, Newell finished 28th overall.
“It’s really frustrating when stuff like that happens especially toward the end of the season when we’re fighting for world cup points. So I had to ski back to get my missing ski and finish off the heat,” Newell wrote in an email.
Newell, who suffered from a debilitating sickness in the men’s relay “bounced back a couple days ago,” according the U.S. Ski Team women’s coach Matt Whitcomb. Even with the status of his health improving, it’s been a hard few week for the American sprinting veteran.
“It’s been a little bit of a tough go for a guy that’s ready to rip,” said Whitcomb.
World Cup action in Lahti continues Sunday with a 15 k freestyle for the men.
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.